Lyon, France

Lyon is known as France’s second city, but for so many reasons, I believe it is a far superior destination than France’s capital city. Wandering through the tree-lined streets, visiting the beautiful cathedrals, sitting in an outdoor cafe with a coffee or a glass of wine, and strolling through the market stalls along the river, will make you feel as though you are in Paris. However, Lyon is so much more inviting, and surpasses Paris in so many ways.

Lyon located in the central-eastern part of France, sits at the confluence of the Saone and Rhone rivers. Parts of the city are registered as a UNESCO Heritage Site.

The Romans settled here in 43 BC, and the ruins throughout the city are astonishing to witness. The Roman theater in the Fourvière district is an amazing place to visit; climbing around on the ancient steps is surreal. You will find some expansive views of the city from here. I find it completely amazing that the theater was modified over the years to include 10,000 seats!

You will find many other Roman ruins as you wander through the city.

Cathedral Saint-Jean-Baptiste, located in Vieux-Lyon, is a beautiful place to visit. We attended a service here and were blown away by the acoustics.

La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere is another beautiful church to see. Construction began in 1872 with private funds, and was finished in 1884. It is situated at the top of Fourviére hill, and appears to be keeping a watchful eye over the city.

The Gallo-Roman Museum of Lyon-Fourviere is another interesting place to visit, and has a good collection of Roman items, including currency, jewelry, ceramics and much more.

On February 18, 1944. Bernard Guy, a sergeant with the FFI (an independent group working to free France from the Nazis) was killed by the enemy. This remaining building is a tribute to his bravery.

It is a steep climb from VieuxLyon to the Fourviére district, but there is a funicular, which is a fun and quick way to get to the top.

Et, bien sur, the food is amazing. Lyon is a top destination for foodies. There are many fabulous restaurants, cafes and bars. Check out a food tour for a helpful introduction to the food scene in Lyon.

This was the dessert I had at one of the many restaurants we visited while in Lyon.

With all of this swooning about Lyon, I hope you now believe, as I do, that it is a far superior city to Paris; however, the piece de resistance comes down to the people. The people of Lyon make it a wonderful place to visit. They are friendly, welcoming and helpful. The city feels so much more welcoming than Paris.

On our last day, as our train pulled out of Lyon Part Dieu heading for Paris, and the long trip back home, I promised myself that I would return one day, and stay for a much longer time.

A Week in Provence

This week I will continue revisiting the five week European holiday that my husband and I took in October, 2017. A week in Provence with our dear friends was another highlight of our trip. Our time there was absolutely heavenly; the weather was perfect, high 70s and sunny, the pace was slow and relaxing, and the food, bien sur, was fabulous.

One of our favorite meals was at Le 46, a Michelin rated restaurant on a quiet side street in Avignon. We ate at several other restaurants that also had delicious food including, Le Teston in Gordes, Le Terrail in Bonnieix and La Passerelle in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.

We stopped for an afternoon aperitif at La Renaissance in Gordes, where the restaurant scenes in the film “A Good Year” were filmed.

Bien sur, there are many things to do and see in Provence besides enjoying the amazing, and affordably priced restaurants. There are castles, cathedrals, Roman ruins, wineries, medieval villages, shops, street markets, antique shops, and so many other things to do and see. The street market in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorge is a lively and bustling market to visit with a wide variety of items to purchase, including food, flowers, linens, kitchen items, local art, and so much more.

It’s a beautiful village situated along the Sorgue river and is famous for its antique shops.

Provence is a large area with many cities, town and villages. Do some research before you go to determine what area you would like to focus on visiting. I advise renting a car, since many of the small towns are not accessible by bus or train.

We have always found the people in Provence to be warm, welcoming, helpful, and patient with our limited French. Spending only one week there was not nearly enough time to experience it’s magical beauty, but who knows, maybe one day we’ll live there! J’espere!

From Bath, UK to Robion, France

It has been a nice trip down memory lane to revisit the five week European holiday my husband and I took in the fall of 2017. Many of my blog posts have been about our time there, including our first stop, Loch Ness. We wanted to get acclimated to the time difference before heading to The Backies where we stayed with some friends for several days. From there, we drove to Edinburgh where we met up with some friends who had just arrived from the U.S. Castle Douglas was our next stop, and from there we had a long drive to Bath. See previous blog posts for more information about these places.

After leaving Bath, we drove to Bristol to turn in our rental car. We had an early flight the next day to Nice, so we stayed at a hotel by the airport. We arrived early enough in the day so we could spend a little time seeing the Harbourside and Old Town areas in Bristol. We had a delicious lunch at Paco Tapas, wandered though a street market, and visited an old church.

Bristol is a vibrant city with an interesting history, and spending only an afternoon there wasn’t enough time. If you visit, be sure to allow at least several days to see the highlights.

The next morning we were up bright and early for our 6:00 flight to Nice. There are numerous small airlines in Europe that offer cheap tickets, EasyJet being one of them. We paid less than $100.00 for our two tickets. We have flown with them on several occasions and had good experiences each time.

We arrived in Nice on time, rented a car and drove to Aix-en-Provence for lunch. The iconic, tree-lined boulevard, Cours Mirabeau is a beautiful place to stroll and people watch. There are many restaurants, shops, fountains and monuments to see along the way.

Aix-en-Provence is another town that you will want to spend several days visiting since there is so much to see and do.

Our next stop was to find our Airbnb in Robion. We had a little challenge along the way at a toll booth. The directions said to insert un billet, but we didn’t have un billet so my husband pushed the call button to get some help. I tried to communicate in my limited French, telling my husband (who was in the driver’s seat) to tell the man “je n’ai pas un billet” but it came out as “je n’aime pas un billet.” Rather than “I don’t have a ticket,” it came out as “I don’t like a ticket”, sigh. In the mean time, the cars lining up behind us were honking and people were yelling, when my husband noticed someone approaching us with a credit card in her hand. He quickly put his card into the machine, and voila, the gate opened and we were on our way again. Pas de probleme!

Finding our Airbnb in Robion was a bit of a challenge as well. We ended up parking the car and wandering around the neighborhood’s narrow, twisting streets on foot until we finally found it. Our hosts were very friendly, and invited us in for a chat and a glass of wine. They spoke no English, but my limited French helped, and we were able to communicate without too much difficulty. The apartment came with a friendly cat that seemed to love everyone!

Robion, is situated close to Gordes, Rousillion, Bonnieux and many of the other villages in the area. See my other blog posts for information about these places.

Traveling and adventure go hand in hand, and the experiences we have along the way enrich our lives. Getting stuck at the toll booth was stressful at the time, but it’s one of those memories that we now look back on and laugh. I expect that the assistant is still laughing about it as well, “I don’t like a ticket” rather than “I don’t have a ticket.” Crazy Americans!

Moustiers-Saint-Marie

Moustiers-Saint-Marie, also referred to as Moustiers, has the distinction of being one of the most beautiful villages in France. Les Plus Beaux Villages de France is an independent association founded in the early 1980s to promote tourism in rural France. They determined the 100 most beautiful villages in France, and Moustiers, located in southeastern France, in the Provence-Alpes-Cotes d’Azur region, is on the list.

My husband and I first visited Moustiers in 1998, we hadn’t planned on visiting, but stumbled upon it while we were looking for a place for lunch. We fell in love with it and vowed to return someday. The next time we visited was in October 2013, and we stayed for 3 days.

Notre Dame de Beauvoir is located part way up the hillside behind the village, and is an interesting place to visit. A steep trail leads to this 14th century church, and you will pass the 14 stations of the cross along the way.

At the top you will find stunning views of the village and valley below.

There is a gold star hanging between the cliff walls that, according to legend, was hung in the 14th century. But no one knows exactly how it was hung. C’est un mystere, n’est pas?

The Adou river flows through the village.

The village is a lovely place to wander and take photos.

The Travel Sketcher, busy sketching.

We stayed in room 14 at Le Relais. The room has a magnificent view of the valley.

You’ll need a rental car to get to the village, but once you arrive, you can leave the car parked since the village is so small.

Have you visited Moustiers? If so, leave a comment with your experience there.

The Beautiful City of Nice, France

Nice is a beautiful city that is situated on the French Riviera and was founded in the 4th century BC by the Greeks. It was named after Nike, the Greek goddess of Victory. The Italians changed the name to Nizza during their occupation of the city. In 1860, the name was changed back to Nice when it became part of France. The Italian influence is still prevalent, and you will find many Italian restaurants and shops.

It is a welcoming place to visit with much to offer, including beaches, castles, museums, and delicious cuisine. We visited in mid October a few years ago, and the weather was perfect with clear, bright blue skies, and a warm temperature in the high 70s. After settling into our Airbnb apartment, we strolled along the Promenade des Anglais, and found a cafe on the beach for a snack. We were both amazed at the brilliant blue color of the rippling Mediterranean Sea. My husband, who is an artist, commented that the color of the Mediterranean is so blue, that if he painted it as is, no one would believe the color was truly realistic.

The Old Town or Vieille Ville is a must see and is filled with narrow, twisting alleyways that eventually open up to larger plazas and squares where you’ll find statues, fountains and other interesting structures. You will find many restaurants, shops, vendors and so much more as you wander through the area. The Marche aux Fleurs Cours Saleya is a highlight as well.

The 7 kilometer Promenade des Anglais is a nice place to stroll and people watch. It was named for the wealthy English tourists who visited the area in the 18th century.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, my husband and I have always found the French to be warm, welcoming and helpful. In fact, our Airbnb host actually picked us up at the airport, and drove us into town and to our apartment. He gave us a little tour along the way, and pointed out many of the famous sites. And people say the French are not friendly? Je ne pence pas!

Notre-Dame de Paris

Like many others, I was deeply grieved to hear the news of the fire earlier this week that ruined much of the beloved cathedral, Notre-Dame de Paris. I am at a loss of words to describe the horror I felt when watching the images of the fire, and to see the magnificent spire come tumbling down. It is encouraging, however, to hear the optimism of the French authorities who say it will be repaired.

I have been fortunate to have visited Notre-Dame de Paris many times and found the history to be completely amazing. Construction on the cathedral began in 1160, and took many more years to complete. It is rich with architectural ingenuity, including the flying buttresses, gargoyles, the statues of saints and kings, rose windows, just to name a few, all of which beautifully showcase its French Gothic architectural style.

My husband and I first visited Notre Dame in the spring of 1998. It was a weekday, so luckily for us, it was not swarming with tourists. During that visit, we climbed the 367 steps to explore the belfry, et, bien sur, we climbed the next set of 147 steps to the top of the south tower, whew! The view from the top is absolutely amazing. Once you start climbing, or descending, there’s no place to stop, and there are people in front of you and behind you, so this climb is not for everyone.

On our first two visits, the exterior of the cathedral was covered with scaffolding, so I was thrilled on our third visit when the scaffolding was finally gone!

On another visit, in April, 2005, we visited Notre Dame the day after the Pope died. There were hundreds of tourists visiting that day, along with a handful of faithful mourners, near the alter listening to the priest as he prayed for the deceased Pope, and his followers.

The statues of the saints and kings on the outside of the building are very interesting, also with their own intriguing history.

This one is of St. Denis, the first Bishop of Paris. Apparently he ended up on the wrong side of the Roman authorities, and was beheaded. Legend has it that after his beheading, he picked up his head and walked north. The area where he finally fell and died is known as St. Denis.

My dear friend, Terri Watson, wrote this beautiful haiku after hearing of the fire:

On this Holy Week

Death springs to eternal life

Out of the ashes

My French friend, Pascal, said this: “Paris burnt, but will be reborn!”

There is always hope for the future.

Eze and the Cote d’Azur

The little village of Eze had been on my bucket list for many years, so I was thrilled when the opportunity to visit it finally came up. Eze is a charming village situated on the hilltop far above the Mediterranean Sea that has spectacular views on a clear day. Eze is about a 20 – 30 minute bus ride from Nice along a narrow, winding road, also with beautiful views. The ride can be a bit frightening at times since the road is perched right on the cliff; just try not to look down. 🙂

Once we arrived in the village, we stopped at Le Nid d’Aigle for a delicious lunch. Even though we visited in October, the weather was sunny and warm so we ate outside on the terrace,

After lunch we visited Le Jardin Exotique d’Eze. There is a small admission fee, but I highly recommend visiting. Le jardin est tres beau.

I could have sat here forever just looking out at the sea and the rooftops.

The garden is quite large and we spent several hours there.

After visiting the garden we slowly worked our way back down the steep hill and strolled through the village and did a little shopping. As I have mentioned in previous posts, one of my favorite things to do when visiting European villages is to wander around and take photos; Eze is a perfect place for that.

Just as a side note, if you take the bus from Nice as we did, you will be doing a lot of walking to get to the gardens at the top of the hill, and it is quite steep in places as well.

There are a few hotels in Eze, but we stayed in Nice, which is a lovely place as well. Check in next week when I write about our time there.